Update [2005-4-17 20:23:35 by susanhbu]: WaPo story, with wonderful quotes from Sen. Leahy and staff, below the fold.
… I heard, by chance, the news that an extraordinary 29-year-old American aid worker named Marla Ruzicka was killed by a suicide bomber yesterday, enroute to the Baghdad airport.
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Update [2005-4-17 20:23:35 by susanhbu]:
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 18, 2005; Page A13
BAGHDAD, April 17 — In a one-woman battle for the victims of war, 28-year-old Marla Ruzicka won over Congress and the U.S. military, persuading the United States to free a precedent-setting $20 million for civilians it injured by mistake in Afghanistan and Iraq. …
The [suicide bomber’s] blast also killed Ruzicka’s longtime Iraqi aide and driver, Faiz Ali Salim, 43, as they drove the road to a U.S. military base by the airport, where foreigners travel for flights out of the country and where Iraqis go to ask for help from the American forces.
A security guard for the convoy was also killed.
“What she wanted to do was eminently sensible,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who pushed through the compensation package after Ruzicka proposed it, said by telephone from the United States. “Unfortunately, things that are eminently sensible sometimes get lost in bureaucracy without a champion. She was a champion I would follow anywhere.”
“It’s rare anybody in a lifetime can accomplish what she did, and she did it in just a couple years,” Leahy said.
Ruzicka came from the isolated, hilly town of Lakeport, Calif. What started out as anti-war fervor during college took her to Washington, then to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The amazing thing is she came here as an anti-war activist, really,” said Tim Rieser, an aide to Leahy who worked closely with Ruzicka on compensating Afghan and Iraq families. But she “quickly saw that wasn’t the way to accomplish what she felt strongest about, which was to help innocent people who were wounded — to get Congress, get the U.S. military to do that.”
“In that sense, she accomplished what frankly nobody has ever accomplished,” Rieser said. “Programs were created for Afghanistan and for Iraq to provide assistance to victims of U.S. military mistakes.”
Ruzicka would lose her cell phone every other day, Rieser recalled, but she could get Bianca Jagger to a party in Kabul, win millions in public and private funds for war victims, and change the way the United States handled war, colleagues said.
Blonde, with hair variously in dreadlocks or extensions, Ruzicka could “talk, smile and bust her way into all the meetings she needed — with Afghans, Iraqis, U.S. military and U.S. Embassy people,” said Quil Lawrence, a journalist who had met her in Kabul. …
Full story: WaPo
Update [2005-4-17 12:42:59 by susanhbu]: This has to crack me up (laughing), otherwise …
By ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: April 17, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 17 – Anyone in Baghdad this morning could have been forgiven for thinking the country was on the verge of civil war.
Three Iraqi Army battalions had surrounded the town of Madaen, just south of the capital, where Sunni kidnappers were said to be threatening to kill hundreds of Shiite hostages unless all Shiites left the town. As the national assembly met, Iraq’s top political figures warned of a grave sectarian crisis. Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric issued a plea for restraint. Even the outgoing prime minister released a statement decrying the “savage, filthy, and dirty atrocities” in Madaen.
But as the army battalions arrived in Madaen, they saw streets full of people calmly sipping tea in cafés and going about their business. There were no armed Sunni mobs, no cowering Shiite victims. After hours of careful searches, the soldiers assisted by air surveillance found no evidence of any kidnappings or refugees at all. …
Update [2005-4-17 9:38:51 by susanhbu]: From Reuters:
The story of Marla’s death is so new — I heard it by chance on CNN just now — that there isn’t a single wire story or newspaper report, or any story yet at CNN. Or is it because the news just isn’t picking up her story, and the only reason CNN mentioned her death was that the reporter in Baghdad knew Marla? See below for more on news coverage of violence in Iraq. First, more about Marla:
Marla Ruzicka, a former protege of Medea Benjamin –according to Alternet — “has been working tirelessly in Iraq to help the many innocent victims of the U.S. invasion.”
The site for Marla’s work is CIVIC, where you can sign up for Marla’s journals from Iraq. The “About Us” page explains that “CIVIC seeks to mitigate the impact of the conflict and its aftermath on the people of Iraq by ensuring that timely and effective life-saving assistance is provided to those in need.”
The site offers no news yet of Marla’s death.
Alternet, which notes that Marla’s work is well-known to its readers, provides this brief history in a preface to a letter from Marla describing her work in Iraq:
Her work seemed to have been all about individual people in Iraq:
Marla’s site describes this scene from a photo at Commondreams.org: “CIVIC founder Marla Ruzicka visiting Ahmad, 15 and Inas 17, who lost their mother when a cluster bomb struck their home, leaving their eleven year-old brother Hasin blind, and Karwar, their 18 year old brother and breadwinner, handicapped forever. The conditions in the hospitals during the war caused the children to suffer permanent burn damage, with a high risk of developing skin cancer. CIVIC is working to get them long-term medical care and plastic surgery. Ahmad doesn’t play with his friends anymore, embarrassed by his wounds, and Inas’s dream of having a husband and family in the future is a far off dream.”
Perhaps the reason there is not a single wire story about Marla’s death is that we are not getting an accurate picture of the violence in Iraq, reports today’s The Independent:
Marla, thank you for all you did and for the legacy you leave us. I do not know about the future of Marla’s program, CIVIC, but donations may be made at any time.
Update [2005-4-17 11:43:40 by susanhbu]:: Contact information for CIVIC. We can send them e-mails with our condolences:
Write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
CIVIC’s Mailing address:
Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict
1630 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009